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Japan joins the frontline of the global push for decarbonization

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© WWF-Japan / Mima Junkichi / WWF

The rise of non-State stakeholders

The role of companies, cities, trade unions, civil society groups, etc. (collectively called non-State actors) in delivering the promise of the Paris Agreement has been a feature of the climate movement for some years, but really emerged as a force in 2014. Since then the role of these non-Party actors has grown significantly. This happened not only because they are the frontline of implementation of concrete climate actions, but also because they play a significant role in creating enabling conditions or momentum in which national governments make decisions and show leadership to guide climate actions. The leadership does not have to always come from national governments; sometime it comes from the ground.

Launch of an unusual alliance

On 6 July, one such effort was initiated in Japan. A multi-sector alliance called Japan Climate Initiative (JCI) was launched and 105 members including big companies and cities joined the initiative. All members agreed to the founding declaration which declares “to stand at the forefront of global challenges in order to realize the decarbonized society envisioned by the Paris Agreement.”

The list of members include 26 companies which have either set or committed to set emission reduction targets in line with the Science Based Targets initiative, an initiative to ask companies to set targets scientifically consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming to 1.5°C. The list of cities also includes major Japanese cities like Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto.

This is the first multi-sector alliance to push climate agenda in Japan and the fact shouldn’t be underestimated. Traditionally, Japanese non-Party actors have not always been vocal in promoting climate action, partially due to their cultural aversion to showing off. However, there is a renewed sense of urgency. The declaration bluntly recognizes the fact that “when the Kyoto Protocol, the first international agreement which committed to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, was adopted, Japan was certainly at the forefront of global climate action. However, 20 years later, Japan’s current position is far from a leading one.” The declaration continues to “[w]e are sure that the actions of Japanese non-State actors will enhance Japan’s commitment to climate efforts in international society.”

The road to G20 2019 in Osaka, Japan

Of course, the launch of the initiative is just a beginning. First of all, JCI plans to get more members. 105 is a good start in Japan but it does not reflect the real potential in the country. There are many other actors out there willing to take ambitious climate action but have not been vocal. The initiative is planning to dispatch their representatives to international forums such as the Global Climate Action Summit in California and COP24 in Poland. Interactions with similar coalitions and progressive actors from other countries are planned, and which can reinforce the commitment of JCI further. More importantly, in 2019, Japan will host G20 in Osaka and JCI plans to engage with the Japanese government in preparing for the opportunity.

Read more about the Japan Climate Initiative.

Naoyuki Yamagishi is Leader of the Climate and Energy Group, WWF-Japan.

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